Active Listening

On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop On loop

Look once.
Look again.
Did you see it?
Active Listening

Active Listening: What you didn’t notice the first time

Songs (and videos) that make you think twice.

Spoon just released a video for its new single “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” — one which is simple in premise but complex in execution. The core concept is that you’re watching lead singer Britt Daniel be Photoshopped by an invisible designer in real-time (or, double-time in many of the scenes). As the image mutates and changes, a kind of abstract narrative is revealed, a dark match to the slinking song. Watching the video reminded me of another classic that seems simple at the outset, but grows increasingly complex with each passing moment; R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life.” The video was a landmark when it was released 16 years ago, but it turns out a lot of people have never seen it. Are you one of those people? If so, this is the moment. This is the place.

Spoon, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It”

Macallan Rare Cask

Spoon’s “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” is a return to form for the band. Evoking the restrained energy of the group’s 2002 album Kill the Moonlight, the track is a creeping threat of a song, rolling on four minutes of ping-pong bass and slow motion disco stomp. Every now and again guitars shudder in, like a jump scare in an old horror movie, but the song never takes you to the climax. The killer is never revealed; he just menaces from a remove. The video is matched well, a short experiment about what Photoshop can show and hide, using minimal, raw materials to create a much more complex narrative. Like a wild dog jumping out of the frame, everything about the track boils under and threatens to explode. A sensation perhaps worse than the explosion itself.

R.E.M., “Imitation of Life”

Bearing few similarities musically, R.E.M.’s 2001 melancholic sleeper “Imitation of Life” does share a theme on the visual side. As with Spoon’s effort above, directors Hammer & Tongs play with the repeated, the revisited, as well as the unseen; the things you must search for at the edges of your gaze. Technically a stunning achievement for its age, the crop-and-zoom brings you into and out of secret interactions that dot the landscape of an appropriately creepy suburban pool party. Like a discarded set-piece from the The Swimmer, revelers shimmy and cavort, unaware of the panopticon in which they’re trapped. The viewer is the voyeur, the repetition the reveal.